The Nighthawks

Live Tonite!

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In 2002, the Nighthawks celebrated their 30th anniversary. The Chicago-minded blues-rock outfit had not changed very much over the years; the Nighthawks of the early 2000s didn't sound much different from the Nighthawks of the early '70s. A collection of live performances from 2001, Live Tonite! makes no attempt to reinvent the blues-rock wheel -- this CD is hardly a radical departure from what the Washington, D.C., band was doing 25 and 30 years earlier. But if the Nighthawks are predictable on Live Tonite!, they are predictably enjoyable. The gritty blues-rockers always sound inspired; that is true whether they are turning their attention to Howlin' Wolf's "Who'll Be the Next One" or Muddy Waters' "Still a Fool." And even though Live Tonite! is far from groundbreaking, at least the Nighthawks don't inundate listeners with overdone blues standards. A lot of Chicago-minded blues releases favor the repertory approach; they stick to standards that blues fans have heard time and time again. But the Nighthawks don't always choose the most obvious songs. Jimmy Reed's "Hush Hush" hasn't been beaten to death the way that "Big Boss Man" and "Baby What You Want Me to Do" have, and Waters' "Still a Fool" isn't the standard that "Got My Mojo Working" is. There is no law stating that every blues-rock CD that comes out has to be groundbreaking, but it is nice when blues-rockers do some digging and find deserving songs that their fans haven't heard 1,000 times. And not every song that the Nighthawks pick has some type of connection to Chicago or Chess Records; "Boogie Woogie Country Girl," for example, is a Doc Pomus classic. The Nighthawks bring a lot of grit and passion to that song and everything else on Live Tonite!, which is a pleasing way to celebrate the bar band's 30th anniversary.

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